Courtney Hunt

Courtney Hunt

New York, NY, US


Clandestine Kunsthalle

The self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi sparked protests in Sidi Bouzid and Tunis in December 2010.  Tunisians used social network outlets to document the protests and spread their thoughts about the corrupt President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime.  They posted images and video to Facebook which illustrated the violent police response to the protests.  In late December 2010, individuals started using Twitter to post about the deactivation of Tunisian Facebook accounts. Twitterers used the code, Ammar404 to symbolize both the nickname for Tunisian censorship and references to the newly encountered “404 page not found” error when they tried to log into their facebook profiles.  The phenomenon rippled through the twittersphere by a series of tweets and retweets, building momentum and gaining the attention of the world’s most prolific hactivist group, Anonymous.

Anonymous has “no leaders but instead relies on the collective power of decentralized individual participants acting in such a way that the net effect benefits the group.”  The international agglomeration of hackers mainly conducts its operations through IRC or internet relay chats.  These chats occur on public or private “channels,” or virtual spaces, where information and data is shared.  Their outreach operations, or AnonOps, which Anonymous performs are hard to trace as the members’ identities remain hidden and their network dispersed.  In light of the ongoing censorship and oppression by the Tunisian government, Anonymous had already created an OpTunisia IRC channel by the time the Facebook hacking reports started to surface.  Once word of the Facebook hacks came to light both on twitter and in the more clandestine IRC channels, AnonOps focused its attention on maintaining the freedom of expression for Tunisian Facebook users.  The oft tweeted, Optunisia took on a new meaning when used in conjunction with Facebook.  Now it was not only a declaration of Anonymous’ ongoing fight against Tunisian oppression but it now spoke of a specific preventative script people could load into their browsers to maintain anonymity. 

Through my research, I wanted to look at the confluence of these twitter keywords.  The drawings are a three dimensional dialogue between these two tweeted keywords, Ammar404 and OpTunisia.  The x values represent the days from Dec 1, 2010 and Jan 31, 2011.  Time and score are what drive the diagram.  The score of the tweet, which is an algorithm based on the users prominence and the number of retweets, pushes and pulls the spherical forms.  As time is plotted in the x and y, we can see spatially the relationships between moments in time and their relative value.  The moments of synapse are of particular interest. 

A section taken on Jan 3, 2011 marks one of the most direct exchanges between the AnonOps and the most outspoken twitterers.   The physical models are a material exploration to make visible this invisible absence of information flows.

Spatializing the Kunsthalle

My research in Amman culminated in a documentary film and a series of photographic studies.  Home to many transients, people seek refuge in Amman from unrest in other countries in the region.  Spatially, Amman is a city of hills and walls; half the view is of the expansive hillsides and the other half is of retaining walls and forbidding thresholds into clandestine properties.  Spliced together and overlaid, the cut footage of my experience in Amman served to illustrate a fleeting, temporal relationship with the city.   The city is complex, it is obscured, it is hazy and difficult to understand. 

Inspired in part by my transient film and photographic studies in Amman and the malleable nature of information flows and art in the middle east, I decided to model relationships (whether they be programmatic or tectonic) in materials more fluid than my previous models of plaster and silicone.    This next series of studies collided ink with water.  In them I confronted viscosity, temporality, the softening of boundaries between elements, light, and form making.  From those studies I moved into concrete and glycerin experiments, clashing notions of transience and fluidity with the more stable connotations of solid materials.  The material properties of both - fluid when cast together, hard and dimensional when dry led to some fascinating embodiments of the struggling duality that is the Middle East.  Amman is at once a place with an extremely long history and yet the built fabric shifts drastically with the waves of immigrants into the city. 

How can a Kunsthalle operate at the confluence of fluid and static?  How can the gallery embody the shifting nature of art and information flows in the Middle East and yet embed itself in its city, community and culture.

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Status: School Project
Location: Amman, JO